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Monday, May 25, 2015

Yesterday's Turtle and All of the Turtles of Yesteryear

Yesterday, I spotted another turtle, sunning itself in the newly mown grass just outside the woods.

Turtle spotted 5-24-15
It was very green out that day, as rain was expected and the atmosphere had this emerald glow that comes upon the world just before a storm.


Bow was yawning in the outer pen when I went for my walk. Everything was pretty much routine.

Young male box turtle 5-24-15
The Markings on this turtle are very vivid 
I used to get very excited when I spotted a turtle, but I have seen so many of them here over the years now, that the first question that pops into my mind is: have we met before or is this an entirely new turtle? In order to try to figure out whether it is the same or a different turtle, I examine the patterns on the shell, as well as the coloring on the face. This one is a young male three-toed box turtle, about five to ten years old, according to my turtle expert, Pam Keyes. It did not clam up when it saw me, but instead it decided to go into the woods, so I got some footage of it walking.



The question of whether it is the same or a different individual of a known species is not a trivial one. My friend Arle described in his comment a similar phylogenetic quandary that a young man new to this country had. He asked out a girl for a date, but when he wanted to confirm the date, he could not tell her apart from all the other girls, because all American girls looked the same to him. While I don't think that all box turtles look the same, it is still sometimes hard for me to tell for sure if I've seen one before. And I have seen quite a few now, since I began living here.

Female over fifty spotted May 18, 2015
The female whose picture is linked above was my first turtle spotting of 2015. I think it is easy to see she is not the same as the young male from yesterday, both by the marking on the shells and the absence of the white coloring around the mouth that the male has. And this is even without taking into account size, age or sex. But could she be the mother of yesterday's turtle?


twenty-five year old male three-toed box turtle spotted August 18, 2014


Again, I think we can see it is a different turtle by the markings, and it not just a matter of the age difference to yesterday's turtle. But could this turtle have been the father of yesterday's turtle?

Turtle spotted July 2, 2014
The turtle on the ledge to the rock garden when we got back from our trip to Saint Louis also had a reddish face like the one spotted on August 1, 2014, but was it the same one or a different one? This is where it starts to get really difficult.

Turtle spotted June 23, 2014
The turtle pictured above from June 23, 2014 has a little white marking by its mouth, though not nearly as much as yesterday's turtle. 

Turtle spotted  June 16, 2014
The turtle from June 16, 2014 had markings on its shell that remind me a little of yesterday's turtle.

male fifty year old three-toed box turtle spotted June 1, 2014
The male fifty year old box turtle pictured above looks remarkably similar to the one I spotted on June 23, 2014 on the sidewalk.  

So possibly we have one identical sighting for all these different turtles, and that does not even cover all of 2014. If you want to look at more turtle pictures, follow the link below:


Which is the same and which is different is a  very tricky topic that preoccupies me as a linguist as much as it does as a nature enthusiast. 

Here is the paradigm for one of the reconstructed PIE copulas.


Here is the paradigm for the reconstructed PIE third person demonstrative pronouns.

I want to show that the third person demonstrative pronoun root meaning "this" in the majority of  its oblique cases (genitive, ablative dative and locative)  is related to the root for the copula, meaning "is", since both of them consist of the sequence h1-e-s. But that could be a coincidence, right? Well, if that is a coincidence, how do we know that each of the entries in the same paradigm are related to each other? In other words, do we have to prove that the root of the same word in a different case is related to itself? I have never heard of anyone arguing that before!


If we have to go through hoops proving that two words have the same root when they clearly have the same sequence of phonemes of which the root consists, then what do we have to do to prove that a word is identical to itself? The question is not as trivial as it sounds. Ask any forensics expert! Ask all the people who have been wrongfully convicted of a crime based on DNA evidence.

So I'm still mulling it over and waiting to see if anyone has a shortcut for solving the problem. And meanwhile I am looking at pictures of turtles. 

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